Penn School update

Penn School logoPenn School is an independent school in Wycombe constituency which specialises in the education of young people with communication difficulties associated with speech, language, hearing impairment and autistic spectrum conditions.

The School has been placed into administration. The situation is thoroughly unsatisfactory for all involved. Parents in particular are bound to be highly anxious about the future.

The School was established in 2001, after the previous owners decided to reorganise its special education provision.  The property and other financial assets were invested in the Rayners Special Educational Trust and the school run on a day-to-day basis by the senior management team of teachers, with oversight by governors.

This means the School has status similar to all other fee-paying independent schools in the country.

Local Education Authorities across the country send children to the school, and pay fees on behalf of pupils. When Ofsted inspected the school two years ago, it was classed as Inadequate.

Many LEAs decided to stop sending children to the school: it was not offering an education deemed to be of a sufficient standard.  This had a dramatic effect on pupil numbers and consequently loss of income.  A further inspection in May 2015 rated the school as Requires Improvement.

I have had a number of parents with children at the school contact me to tell me of their deep concerns and I understand their anxieties.  In the letter to parents, the Chairman of the Trustees said “we have been working with the bank and others since this time to help us explore options to sustain the School.  This included talking to local MPs.”  I did not receive any written communication from the governors or trustees telling me what was happening. At a late stage, I chanced to meet the Head, who briefly informed me of the situation.

When I learned the school was facing closure, I wrote to the Secretary of State highlighting the situation and asked for the Department’s proposals on the way forward.  I have also written to Bucks County Council asking as a matter of urgency for work with local parents to find other suitable school places for children from September.

I am angry and disappointed parents, pupils and staff have been put in this position and that I was given such late notice.

This is a sad state of affairs. I will be asking the Department for Education to examine how this situation can have been allowed to explode into late stage failure without an earlier resolution and appropriate communication with parents.

Children with highly specialised educational needs are currently without a clear plan for their future, and staff and others who have dedicated their lives to educate and support people with language difficulties find their life’s work turned to dust. Everyone involved must now work swiftly and effectively to find a resolution for every child.


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Comments & Responses

5 Responses so far.

  1. Linda Titmuss says:

    Dear Mr Baker
    I am very pleased you are looking into the proposed closure of Penn School.

    BCC should be brought to task over this.

    As you must be aware most if not all of the school places are taken.

    My Grandson was hoping to go to this School and BCC have messed my Daughter in Law about since Nov 2014. Now there a re NO local places for children with Special Needs.

    I have suggested she send ALL of the extensive paperwork she has involving BCC to the Prime Minister it makes interesting reading.

    She may also contact you she was awaiting further comments from BCC re our Grandson future schooling.

    This is a terrible mess for all children and parents involved. Many will struggle to find school places this can’t be right.

    I look forward to you comments on this situation.

    Yours sincerely

    Lin Titmuss (Mrs)

  2. Paul Joyce says:

    Thank you very much for the update Mr Baker. My son was at Penn from 2010 to 2013 and the school – literally – turned his life around.

    We still have friends with children at Penn and are very saddened and concerned by events.

    Having worked with insolvencies I am especially concerned that Deloitte LLP will only now be interested in paying the various creditors and will have no interest,commercial or otherwise, in the human capital and the human cost to the current pupils and they families.

    I find it extremely disturbing that you were not properly consulted and nor where the families.

    This needs intervention at the highest level before a crisis turns into a tragedy.

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist.

    Best wishes

    Paul Joyce

  3. Paul Joyce says:

    Surely this process needs to be halted so that every aspect can be reviewed?

    We need to look at how BCC, Deloitte LLP and the Trustees have managed the current outcome very carefully indeed.

    Many thanks

    Paul Joyce

  4. Mrs Beard says:

    The speed and timing of the closure of this school is indefensible. The students that attend this school have very special needs, requiring a much higher ratio of teachers/s to pupil. To leave these parents & students literally high and dry – just as the summer break begins when all schools will be inaccessible to discuss placements – is to say the least, heartless. Getting a child into a main stream school is hard enough – to do so to these students who are so vulnerable, requiring specialised education, where placement will be almost impossible, is inexcusable.

    I hope that whomever has made this decision – whether singly or jointly – spends as many anxious hours and sleepless nights as the parents of these children are. If they aren’t – they should be.

    It’s sad to say, but I do believe Ofsted has a lot to answer for in the demise of this wonderful school….yet they remain ‘untouchable’ and walk away from this unscathed, having left havoc in its place. I wonder – why can Ofsted be so omnipotent. Does no one else?

    I do pray you are successful in reversing this decision.

  5. Stephanie Stacey says:

    Mr Baker, as you know the School is a registered charity and the Trustees have appeared to renege on their legal duties by allowing it to get to such a state. It is incumbent on the Charities Commissionaires to instigate a full and thorough investigation and I am sure they will be doing so – if and only if pressure comes from people like you. A number of parents and staff have registered a complaint but are not confident they will take it seriously enough.